VILNIUS - Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis announced he was leaving for Washington, D.C., this week to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell and top officials from the State and Defense departments and the National Security Council.
News of the trip came as a sigh of relief for Lithuanians, who have seen a number of high-profile visits cancelled due to the ongoing impeachment process connected with news of breaches in national security that broke at the end of October.
In December President Rolandas Paksas felt obligated to call off a trip to the White House to meet President George W. Bush because of the scandal he and his administration are currently embroiled in, and several other important meetings with foreign presidents have been cancelled, leading to vociferous complaints that Lithuania has been isolated.
Speculation on the country's isolation, in fact, has intensified to the point that Paksas was forced to address it.
"The term [isolation] is being used irresponsibly and overshadows Lithuania and its foreign policy," Paksas told a press conference on Jan. 19.
There is basis to talk about international isolation in the cases of North Korea or Libya but not in Lithuania's, the president said. "The main difference is that in the case of Lithuania, there never was, there is not and will never be such a thing. Lithuania is an appreciated member of the international community, a state which will enter the European Union and NATO this year, and nobody has doubts about Lithuania's democratic institutions," Paksas said.
Asked when the president's nearest visit abroad would take place, Paksas' new foreign policy adviser, Petras Vaitiekunas, said that visits abroad and meetings with heads of states were being arranged, that he had presented the schedule to the president but for now could not provide further comment.
During his five-day visit to Washington, Valionis will address bilateral cooperation between Lithuania and the Untied States and the new U.S. initiative e-PINE (Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe), which aims to secure security in the region and apply the experience of Nordic and Baltic countries in the development and democratization of neighboring regions, the Foreign Ministry said.